Well, there is no available wi-fi here at the Microsoft briefing, so given the equipment I have with me, no live blog of the show. The "best" part about this year's press briefing is that for the first time, it's being broadcast live to the world on G4. There's just no competing with a live braodcast. So, for now, I'll give you my opinions of Microsoft's show, and promise more to come.
Before the show, I met Larry Hyrb. He's Major Nelson, Xbox Live Community Director, in case you weren't aware. Check out his site at www.majornelson.com.
I saw one of the Joystiq staffers up close as he was stumbling out of a van. I got just close enough to know that they'd been out drinking before the show. Good for them, the press party must've been fun. I was too busy getting completely screwed by United Airlines to make it on time for the party. So, that sucks.
I also saw Peter Moleneux. Again. I swear, the man is at every event for the industry I've ever been to. He was surrounded by a group of people, all very foreign and all very happy.
Once into the event, I sat right in front of some Germans, and to the right of me is a guy that came down from Montreal for this. Did I mention that the Microsoft event was held in a high school auditorium (outdoor, at that)? Yeah, because it was, and all of us flew a long damn way to sit on cement bleachers with little poly cushions on them. I kept my cushion, by the way. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s possibly the only swag I’ll get this year.
OK, the show is about to start.
The announcer says something to the effect of “Presenting 5 halo fans from Illinois.” They start playing the theme song from Halo. I'm guessing this conference is going to have some Halo moments in it.
The musicians play the whole damn song, which goes on for about 10 minutes too long. Not that they’re bad, but by this point I’m anxious for MS to get to announcing things. They really got into it. Well, it's better than playing a bar, I guess. This show is one is for the folks at home, I just know it – confirming my suspicions, the violinist gets on the walkway and starts jamming. Seriously, I've never seen anyone "jam" with a violin. Jamming with a violin looks bendy.
Peter Moore takes the stage. Ah, British accents. We needed that. Peter reminds us that there's only 11 weeks until Halo 3. Oh, and that our puny web site coverage is useless because we're being broadcast live. Note to G4: Next year, you might not want to play commercials during the presentation, or cut to commercials but introduce some slight delay. Just a thought.
Everything detailed tonight is coming out this year and most will have demos.
Rock Band appears on the screen. Peter Moore takes a guitar and gets going on Rock Band. By the way, this game will cost you a million dollars and three quarters of your (and your friends’) dignity.
This demonstration starts taking wayyyyy too long.
OK, that's funny. Peter just screwed up and paused the game. I lol'ed. He ended up doing it twice. How damn inconvenient is that pause button? ALERT THE INTERNETS: ROCK BAND GUITAR CONTROLLER FOR THE LOSE!
Viva Pinata, Party Animals is announced. The completely NON-beloved franchise gets a terrible Mario Party knockoff. All they need is a kart racer, and they’ll be done.
The next game up is Mass Effect, and it looks hot hot hot. It's coming in November. There was a lot of stunned oohs and aaahs, but I did notice that the lip synching was a tad bit off. Could have just been the video, and if that’s my only complaint about the game, then I’ll tell you – it’s a guaranteed winner.
Boring - he's talking about how MS has gotten people to spend more money. No crap Peter, every peripheral you produce costs twice as much as it should! Does Microsoft really think that pointing this out on national TV is a GOOD idea? Really? Oh look, video games are going to outsell music this year. Well, not outsell, but out-money, whatever that means. More money stuff: 2/3rds of 3rd party games are sold on 360. Half of consumer spending is on 360 this year. This whole segment of the presentation basically makes me sick – everyone in the industry complained and complained about how the $60 game was necessary because of increased production costs. It’s about value guys – VAAAALLLUUUEEE. No, it’s about increasing revenue from a stagnant base of players. Getting more money from the same people is a market tactic both Microsoft and Sony have utterly mastered.
If they would have skipped that part of the presentation, I would have been much happier / less jaded.
The next part of the presentation details how only three games matter – Madden, Halo, and Grand Theft Auto. Wow, they're leaning heavily on their 3 franchises. What about innovations?
As soon as I'm thinking that, an incredible montage of awesome fills the screen for what seems to be forever. All the big franchises are hitting this year.
Next up on stage is Jeff Bell, VP of marketing. He lets us know that the board game "Scene It?" is coming to Xbox with new questions and HD video.
New controller for the game – see the picture above. Looks like a lollipop. 4 will be included with game.
Naruto is coming to Xbox 360, exclusively. The video features the same guy running around for about a million years, with really cheesy Japanese pop in the background. The game looks good, but I can’t say I’m really connected with the target market for Naruto. Nevertheless, I’ll try to find out more about the game later.
OK, now they're gloating that EA Sports titles are twice as fast. That’s right folks, they suck twice as smoothly. Just kidding – as much as I poke fun, I really do like EA Sports titles. PS – it just hurt my hand to write that sentence.
Reggie Bush takes the stage. I am about a million miles away, and I swear to all that’s holy, the man’s EAR BLING CAN BE SEEN FROM SPACE.
Cue the scripted Madden demo with Reggie kicking ass. But something happens that’s NOT pre-scripted. During play, he said "I know you Microsoft guys like to cheat." Yes. Yes, they do.
No question – the journalists I saw there immediately took it as a bigger dig on MS than it may have been. There was a bit of a stir. It's OK though, Reggie gives Jeff a belly bump elbow thing at the end.
Live Arcade is next. Here are the titles I saw (I may have missed one):
Sensible World Soccer (the Germans behind me started talking here and wouldn’t shut up until the montage was over – they like it, apparently)
Feeding Frenzy 2
Track and Field
Super Puzzle Fighter
Puzzle Quest (WARNING: Awesome factor at maximum levels!)
Next up – video on Xbox Marketplace, detailing on demand movies and shows. We’re all suckers, to the tune of $125 million spent on downloadable content so far.
Big announcement: Disney comes in HD to Video Marketplace. Huge win for MS, and it’s on Video Marketplace RIGHT NOW. Also… NOW. And NOW, as well.
Blu Ray FTL?
This Fall, Canada and Europe get Video Marketplace. HAHA Cheapy D, no video for you in Japan. He’s the only one I know of in Japan, but that HAHA applies to the whole frickin country.
Elite comes to Europe August 24.
Next up is Shane Kim from MS Game Studios, and he introduces some folks to talk about PGR 4. PGR 4 will have community features like video sharing, etc. It’ll have bikes, too. They play Shadow by Prodigy over a montage, and the song sounds cool.
It's PGR, but wet and with bikes! It’s coming in September.
Exclusives talked about: Alan Wake, Too Human, Fable 2, and Halo Wars. A mention of Peter Jackson’s mystery project is made.
Lost Odyssey is really shaping up. It looks good, but I managed to capture a WTF screen shot of the game, see above. The story sounds cool. You’re an immortal with amnesia.
It wouldn’t be a MS show without mentioning Windows -
Viva Pinata is coming to windows this Fall so that they can repeat their earlier success with the title on 360.
Gears of War confirmed for PC, with new content (5 new chapters, more multiplayer), a game editor, and “surprises.”
Cliffy B starts a kick ass battle with the creature from the trailer. It’s as pretty as ever. New Windows Live interface is shown, and it looks a lot more slick. By the way, he’s controlling the game with the 360 controller, not mouse and keyboard. ALERT. THE. INTERNET.
Windows Live will be built into Unreal Engine 3.
Call of Duty 4 gets played on the stage. Real time game play looks good, but a bit boring at first. They are snipers in this demo, and the classic call of duty "holding my breath" sound is in there. Some of the dust effects look great, but probably didn't come through in the broadcast of the event. Birds are wandering around the bushes, it looks great.
There will be an online multiplayer beta. Check out CharlieOscarDelta.com for details.
GTA IV - trailers used a 360 to capture video. They play the second damn trailer again. What a waste of time. Show us something new!
Now they talk about Japanese developers, and show an awesome trailer. It’s a game that won't launch this year. RESIDENT EVIL 5. It looks unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable. I can't wait to see it.
Assassin’s Creed is shown next and looks incredible, but has BIG graphical problems and chunky game play during the demo. Bodies hanging in midair, and jars that fall from people’s hands and just kinda poof off the screen. The fights are really slow, and people don’t gang up on you – they’re one at a time ordeals. I don't know, this has lowered my expectations for the game, in a major way. The kill ended up being a cut to a non interactive portion, wow - it's still quite rough. Here’s hoping they fix the glaring issues that I saw in the demo, because graphically, it’s still very exciting, and there’s potential in the game.
For some reason, they show a Halo live action short that they made with Weta Studios. It's a Warthog factory. I don't know why they're showing it.
MEGATON. NEW CONSOLE. Just kidding, they slapped some paint on, and made a Halo 3 special edition console. WOO? No woo for you!
Finally, the evening is topped off with a new Halo trailer.
MS’ press conference was a bit of a let down, because they didn’t show anything really exciting and new, and they didn’t express a vision for beyond Holiday 2007. They also didn’t announce a price cut. Several games were NOT shown, like Too Human and Alan Wake. Clearly, this press conference was meant for the audience at home, and I was disappointed that they didn’t pull a rabbit out of their hat.
The 360 will have a great Holiday season, but they didn’t show anything new.
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